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The Mewani factor

The Mewani factor
On Tuesday afternoon, newly-elected Gujarat MLA from Vadgam, Jignesh Mewani attended the 'Yuva Hunkar Rally' at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, despite the Delhi Police denying permission for such a gathering in view of the tight security in the area ahead of the Republic Day celebrations. Mewani reached the venue along with Assamese peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, JNU students' leaders Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid, and Vinay Ratan Singh of the Bhim Army. Noted advocate and civil rights activist Prashant Bhushan, too, threw his weight behind Mewani, addressing the youth at Jantar Mantar. The idea of the rally was to reassert the stance of the country's youth on issues that concern them the most: Employment, gender justice, the inclusion of the marginalised in the mainstream. What is significant about this event is that the message from here is bound to resonate across the country among the youth. A simple google search reveals a startling fact about India that most of us have ignored, knowingly or unknowingly. India has more than 50 per cent of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65 per cent below the age of 35. In 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan. Today, India has the world's largest youth population. While such a huge youth population is a great advantage to any nation as it drives growth and productivity, giving them an enabling environment is a minimum requirement to harness their potentials and their innate talent. Of course, such a huge population under a single category of 'youth' will have its political aspirations too. The recently-concluded Gujarat elections have thrown up some interesting results. First, this election will be remembered as the occasion which transformed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from being a reluctant political entity into a suave, spirited political opponent, representing one of the country's most powerful political parties, with an illustrious past in tow. Second, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's high-pitch political campaign, the BJP's seat tally saw a decline over the previous tally and the Congress gained 19 seats in a house of 182. Third and most importantly, some young leaders like Mewani, Alpesh Thakor and Hardik Patel in the company of Rahul Gandhi, with the support of new youth leaders like Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal have made a successful foray into electoral politics. Ever since his victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections, Mewani has been blazing his guns at the Centre and Prime Minister Modi. As expected, a youth brigade consisting of student leaders, Dalit leaders, minority community leaders, rights activists is rallying around him, multiplying and soaring his political standing. In the previous weeks, Mewani's name figured prominently when Maharashtra grappled with Dalit protests over the Bhima-Koregaon violence. He demands the release of Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan from jail, who has been booked for instigating violence in UP's Saharanpur. And, if we his see his rise along with the rise of other youth leaders like Rahul Gandhi, former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav and others across the country, there is a clear sign that by 2019, when the Lok Sabha elections are due—the political aspirations of the country's youth as represented by Mewani and his team will have a more definite shape, a more articulate vision and a more incisive game-plan. Does this give the BJP, which is in power in 16 states and the Centre, a scare? Will the issues being espoused by Mewani's youth brigade take precedence in the voters' mind over those of the BJP's, when the elections come? In 2018, Assembly elections are due in eight states: Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Karnataka, Mizoram, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. These elections would test the nerves of the BJP's poll strategists besides requiring them to mobilise and employ resources in these poll-bound states. BJP is a cadre-based party backed by a huge organisational set-up and led by the indefatigable duo of Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, who themselves undertake most of the strategising and legwork. Prime Minister Modi's appeal among the masses does not show any sign of decline and his image of a hard-working politician putting in nearly 16-hours a day will certainly inspire voters to vote for his party. And finally, BJP too will prop up its youth leaders in a bid to counter the emerging youth leadership in the rival camps. All in all, we have an interesting year ahead as far as electoral politics is concerned. The time ahead will showcase the political resilience of the ruling BJP and the opposition camps that are full of new youth leaders.
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